Point Reyes National Seashore

This is a historial post from Hiking the California Trail, a 1998/2002 book set by Bob Lorentz and Richard Nichols. Where possible an update has been provided.

Farming, logging and development have severely altered much of California’s coast, so to experience the coast in a relatively original and unaltered condition, visit Point Reyes National Seashore. The United States Congress recognized the extraordinary value of this wild and scenic place, creating the National Seashore in 1962, preserving it permanently for public recreation and protecting its wonderful wildlife. Today the National Seashore protects 71,000 acres of the Point Reyes Peninsula, with almost 40 percent of it in the Phillip

Burton Wilderness Area and numerous privately operated ranches within the remaining acreage.

Wide beaches, protected bays, open ocean, salt marshes and esteros, grasslands, brush covered hills, creeks and forested ridges harbor 56 species of land mammals and 24 of marine mammals. About 425 species of birds have been sighted here, as many as any area of similar size in

North America. Fish, shellfish and sharks jam the oceans and bays. You can see California gray whales cruising the coast, a sea lion colony recently re-established at Drakes Bay, and a tule elk herd on Tomales Point. Several creeks even have small runs of ocean-going steelhead trout.

The park and its large wilderness area provide a hiker’s and equestrian’s paradise with miles of backcountry trails and four walk-in campgrounds. While beach and backcountry hiking through spectacular scenery in this pristine environment are a primary feature, many fascinating educational activities exist for non-hikers. The Bear Valley Visitor Center has a fine introductory exhibit to the area. From there the short wheelchair-accessible Earthquake Trail leads you along the fracture zone of the 1906 quake for a dramatic look at a fence moved sixteen feet by the temblor. Nearby are Kule Loklo, an authentic recreation of a Coast Miwok village, and the Morgan Horse Ranch where gentle Morgan horses are trained for national park use.

Try not to miss the long drive out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse in one of the harshest and most dramatic locations on the west coast. It’s the windiest point on the Pacific Coast and second foggiest place on the North American continent. Winds to 133 miles per hour have been recorded, with 60 m.p.h. winds common. In summer, fog shrouds the point for weeks on end. In winter and spring, the lighthouse provides a great spot for whale watching. The lighthouse was built in 1870 to warn ships away from the point, which juts 10 miles into the ocean. The light station was retired in 1975, but most of the buildings and equipment are intact, including the original Fresnel lens.

Originally Published in Hiking the California Coastal Trail: Guide to Walking the Golden State's Beaches and Bluff from Border to Border - Volume One: Oregon to Monterey (2nd Edition) by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols
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